A Proposed Alternative Milfoil Divination Method of the Yijing

By Luis E. Andrade 05/11/2008

THE divination PROCEDURES for forming a hexagram and consulting the I Ching were prescribed by Chu Hsi (1130-1200) in Shih I. a part of his I Hsueh Ch'i Meng. Since Chu Hsi's commentaries on the Chinese Classics became the standard texts, Chinese scholars have followed his prescription obediently. The English translation of I Ching by James Legge was based upon Chu Hsi's I Hsueh Ch'i Meng and Chou I Pen I. The German translation by Richard Wilhelm was based upon the Chou I Che Chung, a collection of the Sung commentaries on the I Ching by Ch'ing scholars. Therefore, only the Sung version of the divination procedures is available in the West. Scholars like C. G. Jung, Hellmut Wilhelm' and Wayne McEvilly followed his version to form hexagrams and to consult the I Ching. It was Jung who first introduced the concept of "synchronicity" in opposition to "causality" as the key to understanding the Chinese psychological phenomenology as revealed in the I Ching. McEvilly

is flawed. and its implications for the future expansion of our ideas concerning the nature of human experience. However. He then dates the currently used coin method to the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-581 A. During the nineteen twenties at the monthly meetings of the I Hsüeh Yen Chiu Hui in Nanking several of my friends shed some new light on them. uncertain about the divination procedures practiced by ancient diviners. its history. as in the cases of many other Classics there are still many unanswered problems about its text. in his dissertation.further suggested that "Not only is it [the I Ching] remarkable because of its antiquity. It should be noted that although Edward Shaughnessy. (underlines are mine) This is how the discussion of "How to form a hexagram and consult the I Ching" by ShihChuan Chen(*) starts. I will not judge how original are ShihChuan's ideas but I will try to synthesize his proposed reconstruction of the original milfoil divination method. These problems have been discussed among Chinese scholars ever since the T'ang period (618-905). where there are nineteen recorded cases of consulting the Zhouyi and of the Guo Yu where there are four.C. but also because of its persistent appeal to the deeper levels of the psyche. the accepted milfoil method.) when it was borrowed from another oracle book. however. Shih-Chuan contends that Zhu Xi "could not rehabilitate the I Ching as a book of oracles since he failed to explain the twenty-three divination cases recorded in the Tso Chuan and Kuo Yu and that. This paper is intended to deal with two basic and yet related problems: how a hexagram is acquired and how the I Ching is consulted. accuses him of plagiarizing Gao Heng's ideas. he accepted the later version of the Taoists" and thus." In recent years more articles and books have been written dealing with different aspects of this most treasured Chinese Classic. the Huo Zhu . you will notice that some credit was given to him in the article and that Shih-Chaun Chen was a member of the same study group as Gao Heng in the early 20th Century. who contributed a great deal to our discussions. This is a method inferred from readings of the Zuo Zhuang. and its usefulness. its impressive vitality. Many original ideas in this article should be attributed to Kao Heng.

from those. 32. or the "Ten Thousand Things" It is mentioned in the Da Zhuan (Ch. 6. that is.6.5. respectively.2). when the original meaning was another and of a much simpler use: the calculation of moving lines and. are not based on the numbers of stalks that we separate in our hand. Shih-Chuan Chen (and/or perhaps Gao Heng.520. but on the remaining stalks in the pile. that Zhu Xi explained to his students and friends the arbitrariness of his divination procedures in a letter to Guo Zhonghui. The case is that nobody knows what the original milfoil method looked like. due to its antiquity.IX. that is: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● The number 50 (Great Elucidation or Da yen) Used only 49 The numbers of Heaven (1. At the end of the three separations. the "related hexagrams" In the proposed reconstruction. it is one based not on largely Daoist traditions but on interpretations of actual ancient texts (Zuo Zhuan and Guo Yu). It should be also mentioned. By dividing this remainder by 4. or the days of a year.7. we obtain the numbers 9. It would be up to the individual querent to empirically judge the oracular accuracy both methods. that we'd like to accept that milfoil divination should be the preferred method for consulting the Yijing. they merged this concept with the Wu Xing (Five Elements). 7 or 6. erroneously identified the number 55 in the Da Zhuan as derived from the sum of the numbers of the Ho Tu (Yellow River Diagram) and from there. 28 or 24 stalks.3.4. we should have a remainder of 36." Thus.. In this case. I don't feel qualified to positively approve or deny the validity of the proposed method. It is only the knowledge that milfoil had been used in Zhou times. 18 The numbers of stalks that give the Creative (Qian) total 216 The numbers of stalks that give the Receptive (Kun) total 144 The sum of the numbers of the Creative and Receptive is 360. Shih-Chuan Chen contends that most Song philosophers.8. and perhaps even as far back as the Late Shang. that "it is this (fifty-five) which completes the changes and transformations and sets demons and gods in movement. Notice that in this sense. as Shih-Chuan Chen notes. 8.10) The sum of Heavenly Numbers is 25 The sum of Earthly Numbers is 30 The sum of Heavenly Numbers and Earthly Numbers is 55 The Four Constituents. including Zhu Xi. side by side. postdates the received coin method. 7. I know of a case where a member of Clarity and Foro Yijing is carrying out such an empirical comparison. etc. The numbers of the stalks used for the sixty-four hexagrams is 11. the method described by Zhu Xi. 8. the stalks obtained in the three separations. Zhu Xi made an educated guess. To be honest. the calculations for the "Four Constituents". it is upon the number 50 that the operations for obtaining an hexagram is based on and it should be upon the number 55 that the moving lines are calculated.9) The numbers of Earth (2. Much of the method is also derived from the numerology presented in the Da Zhuan. .Lin. if we accept Shaughnessy's take on the cited article) is making another educated guess. & 9 The number of operations to obtain an hexagram.

He explains that the ancient Chinese made the "Four Constituents" analogous to the four seasons. However. are the purest form of the energies. thus. The same happens with shao yin. Fig 1 Now. gradually becomes autumn. 6 lines x 4 seasons X 6 = 144. lao yang (9) represents the summer. as the culmination of the slopes. falling in a changing position as explained below). 7 (shao yang) and 8 (shao yin). thus 9 is the inferred value for Pure Yang. when lao yang. even when they are called upon for it in divination (i. The best way to picture this is to consider a wave (fig 1) where the peak of the wave is lao yang and the valley is lao yin. The observation is that change is only considered so when the intrinsic nature of the Yin and Yang is called upon to gradually become its opposite. the same applies to lao yin when it gradually becomes shao yang.e. shao yang (7) the spring and shao yin (8) the autumn.Shih-Chuan Chen asks the question "how do we know that the ancient chinese selected the constant 9 as lao yang (old yang) and 6 as lao yin (old yin)?" and explains that this comes from the numbers needed to obtain "pure" Qian and Kun (216 and 144): ● ● 6 lines X 4 seasons X 9 = 216. are not available for change. shao yin is the descending slope and shao yang the ascending one. thus 6 is the inferred value of Pure Yin. or lao yin. while gradually reaching its peak in winter. lao yin (6) the winter. The ancients also observed that in spring the flow of Yang gets stronger until it reaches its peak in summer and that this change is a matter of degree and not of its nature. Thus. The next question he asks is why. Again. . the next thing to figure out is how to produce "Related Hexagrams" from a divination. they gradually become their opposite. As he notes. or anywhere in the other Wings. From there. summer. this becoming is not just a matter of degree but a change of the intrinsic nature of Yang. there are no rules given in the Da Zhuan. Thus. Therefore. shao yang does not really change on the way to a lao yang. shao yin. the peaks and valleys.

then the first line of the hexagram is available for change. and so on. 7. He points though to a few hints in the Da Zhuan. If the remainder is 1." eliminating the confusion of multiple changing lines. 8.e. 10. 9 and 6) is as follow and refers to a calculation based on the sum of the values of all six lines according to their "Four Constituents" values (6. his hypothesis for obtaining a "Related Hexagram" (note that I refer to 'hexagram' and not 'changing lines'. 8 or 9). . This number is subtracted from 55. then the count reverses. Being that the smallest numerical value of a hexagram is 36 (6 X 6) 2.So. If the remainder is larger than 6. to the smallest (1). if 3 the third. in a given obtained hexagram: 1. The hexagram Qian can have the largest (54). And the largest numerical value of a hexagram is 54 (9 X 6) 3. as calculated in the above description) are not as common as with the method put forward by Zhu Xi. namely. i. Thus. 7. The number value of all the lines are added in divination 6. which is one less than the total of Heavenly and Earthly Numbers (55) 4. anywhere from the largest number (19). until the sixth line 9. then the sixth line is available for change. if 8 the fifth line. if 2 the second. his proposal. From here. is as good as that of Zhu Xi. The remainder. which is 19 less than the total of Heavenly and Earthly Numbers (55) 5. if taken at face value. plus real changing lines (9 or 6 in a changing position. "it is this (fifty five) which completes the changes and transformations and sets demons and gods in movement. indicates the position of the line that changes. 11." He finds these statements as very significant as far as divination is concerned. and so on. if 9 the fourth line. if 7. We have a changing line only when both. the position is available for change and the obtained numbers are either 9 (lao yang) or 6 (lao yin) Table 1 The most obvious and immediate advantage of this method is that only one line changes to give us a "Related Hexagram. The Hexagram Kun can have the smallest (36). The availability of "available changing positions" moves in a wave (see Table 1) all the way to a remainder of 19 12.

No.777. Line 4. August 10th. 92. not only because he was part. Line 5..277.249/16. "The Composition of the Zhouyi.777.935/16. (Apr. . pp.. I cast doubt on a real and intentional malfeasance on the part of Shih-Chan Chen. 237-249. 2009. In recent correspondence with Prof.777. which I share with his gracious permission. After a few days of writing a program in True Basic I finally got the following: This is the Final Result. together with Gao Heng.The above description is a very similar method as the one discussed in E. Edward Hacker he shared his probability calculations with me for the proposed method.216 3 34. 1972). Line 1.942/16." in which he call's this article by Shih-Chuan Chen a "plagiarism" of the ideas of Gao Heng. Line 6.216 = = = 1/664 1/50 1/33 = 1/22 = 1/15 1. Line 2. Shows probability for a line to be available for change and the line is a 6 or 9. Line 3.777. my comments are below his message): Your article on the alternative milfoil method of divination got me thinking about the calculating the probabilities of getting getting a moving line.216 = 1/13 4.777.777. (*) How to Form a Hexagram and Consult the I Ching Shih-chuan Chen Journal of the American Oriental Society.304/16. Here are his findings. Vol. More so.216 = 1/4 Only one chance out of 4 that one will get a moving line.216 762. of the same society dedicated to the study of the Yijing.216 1.777.885/16. but because he gave Gao Heng special credit in his article. While I certainly have Gao Heng in great esteem.194.062.178/16.Shaughnessy's dissertation.115/16.216 504. Total 252.Jun. verbatim (I have only added some formatting and bold/underlines. . 2.

As speculative as the one Zhu Xi reconstructed and shared in his exegesis.Note that the probability is low at line 1 and increases to line 6. No other scholar before Ed Hacker has taken the time and effort to find this information. None of this. More so because it is a method that saw the light (new light?) only about ninety years ago. to reasonably high for line 6. even though it has been available for study and commentary for decades. as very meaningful and true to the spirit of progressive change. of course. rising from very low for line 1. at the earliest. 08/10/09 . Luis Andrade. I find his statement about the probabilities of obtaining a changing line. Ed's calculations are completely new for this method. For that. Like many scholarly papers. Ed. Line 1 is the beginning of the state of change and it is very unlikely that one will get this line as moving. most are shuffled under the scrap pile and need to be rediscovered. The probability of getting a moving line at an available line position is 1/4. but most of these details have nothing to do with divination directly Regards. dug out and reminded of their existance to other fellow aficionados. at the latest. If anyone is into programming in Basic I can email them the program. This is a method that remains speculative. or about 40 years ago. It gives a lot more info than just the results above. I am most grateful. Aug/04/2009. As you can see from the table. resolves the issue of authenticity for the method. line 6 is the most likely line to get as moving. As far as I know.

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